Google Explains Why the White House Topped in Racist Search Results


Google explains why the White House topped in racist search results recently, which has something to do with what the Internet has. It has apologized for its Maps mess up this week through the Google Maps official blog, posted by VP Engineering and Product Management, Jen Fitzpatrick.

Google Maps experienced some problems as it displayed results for offensive searches. The company expressed they are upset, as everyone else, and is doing on the fix. It said it may take time to resolve the issue, and promised to keep everyone updated.

In its quest to bring the information what the public are looking for, it provides Maps, to give data about the physical world. The search giant even tries to deliver the best search results in queries so that it brings out information that can even be trusted for businesses. Hence, it is trying to work hard to correct Maps.

The search firm learned that Maps have been delivering unexpected results this week for some places, triggered by offensive terms in discussions of those places. The delivered maps were likely not the ones people are searching.

One of the recent embarrassing occurrences, is when people searched for “nigga” king or house, it returned an unlikely and unexpected place – the White House, and other places that have something to do with ethnic minorities and African-Americans. Also, a “slut house” search gave the Indiana women’s dorm. As it can be suspected as a hacker’s work, it turned out that Internet content is the major reason.

Professor Lisa Nakamura of the University of Michigan and co-author of Race After the Internet, said this is not new, as it is just a high-profile example of using content from users to answer questions. According to Nakamura, they depict the attitudes which are really common, but most people do not want to think about.

The Mountain View, California firm, said a team is already fixing the issue by building a significant algorithmic change for Search. It also updates its ranking methods so that search results will be more refined. It assures something like this should not be in Google Maps in the first place, and that they are making sure it will not happen again.

It has been heard that hackers were destabilizing searches for Google Maps in a way, but the Android platform owner said they were false. Maps tamper concerns Google that it shuts down Map Maker, which lets anyone to give their contribution to the development of Maps, after some obscene edits, such as, the logo of Android peeing on that of Apple’s. In the meantime, Map Maker is off and there is no indication yet when it will come back.

The Mountain View firm is changing Maps to stop the racist terms and the inappropriate terms from showing in the search results. To be more accurate in giving information in response to search, the search company is regularly scraping the Web to fill out search results, which also has its downside; and explained why the White House topped in offensive and racist search results. The cause is different from the Android/Apple logo tease by Map Maker, as it comes from people “using offensive terms in online discussions.”

The team does not go on blaming the Internet, but worked on to update the algorithm to address the problem. It looked like the search titan uses filters so some results would not show, though creative minds could work around on these filters later.

Google explained and apologizes, why the White House topped in racist search results in Maps, saying, the service makes use of unfiltered content from across the Web to match location searches, the same model the search engine is using. It explained why a search for the term “failure” gave U.S. President George W. Bush at the top of the results page. Just like Google search algorithms which need to be modified to stop “Googlebombing,” Maps needs a similar change.

By Judith Aparri

Google Maps: Sorry for our Google Maps search mess up
TechCrunch: Google Will Retool Its Maps Service To Prevent Racist Listings
Engadget: Google Maps: offensive search results came from ‘online discussions
Wired: Google Maps Is Racist Because the Internet Is Racist

Photo courtesy of brewbooks’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

One Response to "Google Explains Why the White House Topped in Racist Search Results"

  1. Pingback: Sunday Reads: The Church, Ireland and Reality Checks | Sky Dancing

Your Thoughts?